When I started my college tennis journey, I never envisioned to stay in the US past the typical four-year timeline of playing and earning a degree. But finding a new passion for coaching my favorite sport and meeting my wife and mother of two children, opened a door for me I could only dream about. With a short break of six months to do an internship with Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, I have now spent 12 years in college athletics with ups and downs and many firsts. Personally, I think that any young athlete that wants to compete on the highest level, train in environments professionals often can only dream about, and earn a degree, should at least consider playing college tennis. To me, this is almost a no-brainer now. Overall, those 12 years may seem like a long time but really flew by quickly like all things in life you enjoy.
You started your college career with the Baylor Bears. Can you talk a little bit about your time at Baylor and how it impacted you?
My college tennis journey began at Baylor where I have received a Bachelor in Finance and a Masters in Sports Management. I will always be thankful for the school, the athletic department, and the opportunity they provided me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the impact of the people I met at Baylor and the environment I was around. Athletically, you can’t find better facilities and coaches to further advance your athletic skills. Academically and socially, you are surrounded by people that strive for the best and you can feel that impact on you. I have learned so many valuable lessons during my time at Baylor. Hard work, loyalty, comradery, and staying humble, for example, are values I will cherish for the rest of my life.
After your playing career, you were a Volunteer Coach for the Baylor Bears before eventually becoming their Assistant Coach. As a player and coach, you had an incredible career with Baylor. You are the singles player with the most wins at Baylor, were awarded the student-athlete of the year award in 2008, made it to the Final Four as a coach, and recruited multiple All-Americans. What do these accomplishments mean to you?
These individual awards and recognitions are nice, but at the end of the day, I always preferred team success. As a player, I always had below average performances in the fall, but played really well in the spring. I think I learned to value the collective success over mine. The group success should stand above anything else and that’s a teaching philosophy I brought with me to Old Dominion as well. As we are preparing our student-athletes for the professional world as well, I think this is a really valuable lesson. I want to help maximize each player’s personal growth potential. If I do my job right, the team success will automatically follow.
You already briefly touched on our next question. After your time at Baylor, you took on a new role as the Head Tennis Coach for Old Dominion in July of 2016. Within your first two years, you have already seen some great success with the Monarchs; including an 11-match win streak and a Conference-USA title in 2018. How did you even get into college coaching and what do you contribute this success to?
I first explored my passion for coaching during my senior year at Baylor when I realized it was time to think about adulthood and that the business world wasn’t my real passion. I got into it by being the volunteer coach at Baylor while doing my Masters and things started rolling from there. I think our success this past year can largely be contributed to the closeness of our team. The guys played for each other and the school and we were one unit. It’s important to me to help our players on this path. Obviously, I learned a thing or two during my time as an assistant with one of the best programs in the country, but implementing it yourself is not always as easy as it sounds. I think our players were open-minded towards my ideas and visions and paid it back with hard work. I couldn’t ask for a better group to coach.
Your remarkable career as a player and coach must require a lot of effort and drive. What deeply motivates you?
I think every competitor is motivated by winning and the thought of achieving greatness. So do I and I think that’s the nature of our profession. But seeing our players grow over their 4 years and what they accomplish afterwards is truly special about being a coach. I’m still in touch with so many former players and being invited to their weddings, etc. makes you proud and shows you that you are also making an impact on people’s life which is hard to find in many other professions. One of my seniors this year just got a job with a big investment firm in Europe. Him telling me this news and thanking me for preparing him for this new chapter is something you will likely not get much elsewhere.
But as we all know, good times are often accompanied by challenging and hard times as well. Can you talk about some struggles you were facing during your college tennis career?
I was very fortunate to never experience any really extreme situations. I had to deal with normal adversity every student-athlete has to face such as stress, tough losses, personal issues, or homesickness. But I have always had a great support network around me that helped me figure everything out. Aside from that, I had and still have hip issues. There were many nights I couldn’t sleep without pain after match days. However, I don’t think it particularly marked me or had an impact on me. As I said, I’m still dealing with it and that’s about it.
Let’s conclude your story by taking a step back. Hardly any one of us would be where we are at today without the help of some amazing individuals. Who is responsible for your success that you would like to say ‘thank you’ to?
My parents are responsible for my success story. Without their financial and personal sacrifices, I couldn’t have had a junior career that would have allowed me to play college tennis at such a high level. They supported me anywhere they could and still do to this day. They still follow all the live scores when we play at ODU and know all our players by name all the way from Germany. In addition, my wife has been a huge supporter of my entire career since she sat in the stands at Baylor cheering me on during my playing career. Family is a big part of my life and having them around is something I don’t take for granted.
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